Directed by John Hillcoat
Written by Matt Cook
Starring: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Clifton Collins, Jr., Norman Reedus, Teresa Palmer, Michael K. Williams, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson, and Kate Winslet
With “Triple 9” John Hillcoat delivers a taut crime thriller about dirty cops and the Russian Mafia. “Triple 9” is part heist movie and part police drama, but needed a little more of the detective noir subplot is thrown into the otherwise paint by numbers crime drama. “Triple 9” expertly blends all of these subgenres of the crime drama into an impressive package, a package that needs to be opened.
That was the one thing that was wrong with the movie that the deceive noir subplot with Woody Harrelson was not utilized to its full potential. Harrelson played the detective in charge of investigating the bank robbery that occurs at the start of the movie – it is revealed (to the audience) that this robbery was committed by members of the Atlanta Police Department. Harrelson’s character does not know this, only to suddenly realize that cops are involved with the robbers he had been investigating. There needed to be more of Harrelson connecting the dots from the robbery to the APD. Through Harrelson’s plot line could have been used to explore disillusion with traditional authority figures, such as the police.
Hillcoat masterfully directs the movie, by not only utilizing the different subgenres but by crafting beautiful and tense action sequences. These action sequences were the gritty, violent, street version of poetry in motion. Or to quote Bruce Springsteen, like “an opera out on the turnpike” or “a ballet being fought out in the alley.” These sequences are so well-constructed and so well-shot that the grit and the violence are beautiful. Not only are these scenes beautiful, but many of these scenes serve to push the narrative forward. Especially the action scene that takes place in the housing project.
The highlight of the “Triple 9” was the brilliant casting. When it comes to names like Harrelson, Kate Winslet, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, you know that the performances are going to be great. The standouts of the cast are Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, and a career best, Casey Affleck. All three of these guys are young actors, and to date have delivered performances that range from solid work to work that was phenomenal. The addition of these three actors to a strong cast only serves to benefit the movie because these are guys who are on the rise, and young talents that work well along with their more established co-stars.
I am hesitant to refer to “Triple 9” as an ensemble film because the cast and the various story lines are too unbalanced to be a true ensemble film. There were certain characters who were only part of certain arcs of the story. The key to an ensemble piece is a balance. That is why something like “Spotlight” or “The Hateful Eight” work as ensemble pieces. Those films balance the characters, and each of the characters is needed throughout the story, not just during certain parts.
“Triple 9” is worth the price of admission, although, you will not be witnessing the next all-time classic of the crime drama genre.